15 m long cars, stuffed with sensors and cameras, launched at nearly 100 km/h, capable of rising above the water in the most beautiful spots in the world, from Bermuda to the Bay of Without Francisco, via Saint-Tropez, Singapore and Christchurch… In line with the America’s Cup, long the queen event of sailing, the new SailGP season begins this weekend in Bermuda with Quentin Delapierre at head of Team France.
Present at the Tokyo Games in Nacra 17, the Frenchman finally put an end to the Olympic preparation which should have led him to his dream of the Olympic Games at home, in 2024. “I was on two projects at the same time. Suddenly, Manon’s back pain (Editor’s note: Audinet, her partner in Nacra 17) resurfaced, she was no longer able to navigate. We settled down and we both admitted that we were no longer in the nails for the Olympics, ”says Quentin Delapierre.
“Technology is evolving at breakneck speed”
The duo gave up on the Paris Games, Quentin took his Olympic sailing partner on board the SailGP adventure. A crewed adventure that is now played in 11 stages. « It’s the circuit that everyone dreams of joining one day », points out Quentin, called by Team France in the middle of last season to replace Billy Besson, thanked and left since… in Nacra 17 for the Olympics . “When Bruno Dubois (Editor’s note: the team manager) called me to offer me the job, I only thought for a few seconds. It’s a little scary, but you can’t refuse! »
At the controls of Formula 1 of the seas in French colors, Quentin Delapierre assumes his role as leader, working in particular with the mental trainer of skier Mathieu Faivre, bronze medalist in giant slalom in Beijing this winter. “We work in particular on departures, the importance of anticipating things to be in the game right away. »
In sailGP, all boats are the same. This circuit was created by the billionaire co-founder of Oracle Larry Ellison after the defeat of the Americans at the 2017 America’s Cup. The 9th richest man in the world finances the competition and relies on the know-how of Russell Coutts, five-time America’s Cup winner. « Technology is evolving at breakneck speed, we are going faster and faster », notes Quentin Delapierre, responsible for piloting one of the ten F 50s (an evolution of the AC 50s, the foiling catamarans of the America’s Cup of 2017).
One day a 100% female version?
The circuit is taking on such a scale – ten countries are now represented, the teams are responsible for gradually finding sponsors on pain of being excluded, Ellison financing the first five seasons – that we find the world’s gratin in terms of sailors. . Jimmy Spithill, Peter Burling, Sir Ben Ainslie, Nathan Outteridge… last year, no less than 21 Olympic medalists and six America’s Cup winners played on the circuit.
“Ask any sailor taking part in the Olympics what he wants the most: he will answer you: Take part in the SailGP circuit! “The French are not yet close to the heights – it was the Australians who won season 2 and pocketed the million dollars – but are progressing.
In his wake, Quentin Delapierre embarks several Olympic preparation sailors. Kevin Peponnet, who also favored SailGP over the 2024 Games, Manon Audinet but also Aloïse Retornaz and Camille Lecointre, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medalists in 470, who will take turns on the circuit while continuing their preparation for Paris 2024. Because, eventually, the SailGP circuit, currently mixed, could launch its 100% female version.